We were asked to design the revitalization of a farmstead, which would be used for company presentation, holding of corporate events and, last but not least, staff training and their leisure activities. The farmstead Semtín near Benešov, which was selected for this project, was in desolate state, but its strong Genius Loci with a large water reservoir and a Nature park Džbány-Žebrák nearby destined the project for a special approach.
The landscape character resembles a submontane region with a large complex of woods, wide meadows with groves and wetlands and a no less significant system of ponds.
The stork nest on the top of the distillery´s chimney with its nearly 90-year history gave the complex its name and widely influenced the process of forming the horse-riding arena.
It became a symbol of the symbiosis between man and animal, or (if you like) the client´s company - specialized i.e. in manufacturing natural products - and nature.
The old farmstead consisted of an enclosed yard of an almost square ground plan and addition of a piggery. The yard contained two dwelling houses, a distillery, a barn and a stable. The buildings for stabling were torn down; also a small dwelling house had to be removed due to bad technical state. The remaining buildings (villa, distillery, barn) were intended for reconstruction.
At the beginning of the design was the idea of creating two independent functions – recreationally educational with accomodation and agricultural - which can work either together or separately. Therefore the buildings were conceived as enclosed units, which neighbour on one another and can be easily connected or separated. New buildings have been added to the existing ones to restore the form of the original farmyard.
The agricultural function got its new own service yard connected with an educational path, where the visitors can see the animals kept on pastures. The animal breeding on the farm is not motivated by economic profit, but only constitutes a means of forming a rural framework for the other functions of the complex. It enables the visitors to relax in immediate closeness to traditional domestic animals of the Bohemian country-side.
The dwelling yard is tied together with an agricultural trail, which makes the visitors acquainted with agrarian cultivation. A fishing trail leads to the pond and culminates in a sightseeing building in close contact with the dam. Maintenance of the surrounding fields does not reach the state of high farming, as well as fish breeding in the pond, which serves only for breeding trophy fish, recreational fishing, bathing and swimming.
The Stork Nest Farm should serve for work and recreation, mental and physical progress of the visitors. For this purpose there are more than 90 hectares of land consisting of green areas, sport grounds, a pond, drifting and pastures, biotope and a golf driving range.
The new building of a riding arena was designed for the needs of horse breeding and riding sport during winter season. Moreover it should serve for all sorts of presentations, sports, and cultural events. The internal equipment of the building and its position among other buildings are adapted to this use. The arena is situated in a close proximity of the main service yard with stable and is directly connected with a restaurant, which acts as a snack-bar. There is also a connection with the residential yard, where the visitors are accommodated.
The arena´s appearance should evoke the stork´s nest, a symbol of home, safety and security. The arena is 12,5 meters high, its external diameter is 35 meters, the diameter of the indoor riding surface is 24 meters.
The foundations are formed by a massive concrete ring. The roof is supported by an atypical glulam timber beam structure. An external cladding of translucent polycarbonate boards was fixed between these beams. The external oak logs, giving the structure an expresive appearance, provide also shading. They were fixed to the building at the total amount of 200 tons at the length of 4, 6 and 8 meters. A secondary steel grid-frame construction was added to the timber beams to achieve the external shape of the nest and also to provide the method of fixing the logs to the structure. The central sky-light with a diameter of 8 meters serves for intensive ventilation of the internal space by natural air flow. The fresh-air inlets are placed under the stand, the air outlets are placed around the perimeter of the sky-light´s ring. In the case of a high solar heat gain there are ventilation fans on the roof that fulfil a supporting role to the natural ventilation.
The arena´s surface of the riding area is covered by sand with capillary irrigation for riding sport, which can be covered with plywood boards during all sorts of events. The riding area is surrounded by a wainscot (protective barrier) and a stand for c. 200 people, also with a VIP stand upstairs.
The riding arena became a landmark in the area of the farm and an element which attracts attention in wide neighbourhood.